More Catholics, fewer priests

Vatican reports number of Catholics has risen to its highest level in history, but number of priests has declined for first time since 2010

Into the priesthood: Newly ordained priests stand at St Peter’s Basilica today during the mass of ordination presided over by Pope Francis (image: The Daily Mail)

The Vatican releases an annual compendium of figures that offers insight into changes in the worldwide Church. Known as the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae, it is compiled by the Central Office of Church Statistics in Rome. The 2019 edition, published last week, presents the figures for 2017 – the most recent year available.

The headline news is that the number of Catholics has risen to its highest level in history. There are now 1.3 billion baptised faithful, comprising 17.7 per cent of the global population of 7.4 billion people. But that is not surprising: the number of Catholics is rising largely as a result of broader population growth, rather than because of spectacular successes in the mission field. So the number of Catholics has risen by 1.5 per cent in Asia and 2.5 per cent in Africa. But in Europe and America the increase is below the average annual world population growth rate of 1.1 per cent. While the headcount of Catholics is rising each year, that is a crude measure of the Church’s overall health.

The other big takeaway from the new statistics is that the number of priests worldwide has declined for the first time since 2010. In 2017, there were 414,582 priests, compared with 414,969 the year before. Admittedly, this is only a fall of 387, but the Vatican itself has described the change as “conspicuous”, given that the number has increased throughout this decade. We do not yet know if this is just a blip or whether it is the start of a steady decline. But we should be concerned as there is also a fall in the number of seminarians worldwide. There were 115,328 candidates for the priesthood in 2017, compared with 116,160 in 2016, a decrease of 832.

Full story at Catholic Herald.

Comments

  1. Joel Fago says

    Pray for more good priests. Pray that Pope Francis retires.

  2. A simple graph of priests by age group should indicate whether number of priests will decline, and how soon, especially if the number of seminarians is declining.

  3. Anthony Rios says

    Every time I go to Mass there are predominantly gray-haired worshipers and fewer and fewer youngish people.

    Young adults today see nothing special in the lackluster, non-Catholic sermons, Then they hear about the scandals of the church “leaders” (the bishops and priests)—and the young people disassociate with all things Catholic.

    If there is no sin anymore—except for politically correct sins-such as being in support of President Trump–then Christ is not necessary in our lives.

    .

  4. A man will present for priestly service when the church has a clear mission of salvation from sin for eternal life. He will sacrifice marriage, strive for chastity, teach, sanctify, and guide from the Bible and Sacred Tradition. To do so, the man must be formed, then supported by men who live the same values. When infidelity to Jesus through pastoral practices in false mercy, oppression by bishops of priests to silence the true message exist, men will not be formed into lovers of Jesus and His truth, and will not think of priesthood. If a faithful soul sees a weak priesthood, it will not attract him. Big changes from the top down are needed for men to be formed to be faithful Catholics and then transformed into faithful priests.

  5. Please read, “Catholic Church, Where are You?” at http://richardperozich.com/parish-forms/. This missionary priest lays out clearly the crisis of belief which influences men’s formation in the faith and consequential failure of presentation of selves for ordination because they do not know what the church is.

  6. No doubt Francis and Sorondo are counting the Chinese Communists’ Patriotic Catholic Association (church) which runs in the millions and is anything but Catholic.

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